Diab: Nothing prevents extension of lockdown in case of further surge in infections

Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab highlighted on Wednesday the importance of the health emergency plan and its swift implementation, stressing that it includes securing respirators for villages, towns, municipalities and various health institutions, and indicating that its financing would be examined. PM Diab pointed the need to finalize the plan in the coming days as that it can be implemented as soon as possible, in coordination with all relevant stakeholders, including the health sector and municipalities, and praised the role that the Lebanese Red Cross plays in serving corona patients.

Premier Diab’s remarks came during his chairing of the Coronavirus Inter-ministerial committee meeting attended by Ministers Zeina Akar, Raoul Nehme, Imad Hoballah, Michel Najjar, Ramzi Musharrafieh, Hamad Hassan, Talal Hawat, Vartine Ohanian and Charbel Wehbe, in addition to the Head of the Parliamentary Health Committee MP Assem Araji, MPs Kassem Hachem, Inaya Ezzedine and Mario Aoun, PCM Secretary-General Judge Mahmoud Makie, Secretary General of the Supreme Defense Council Major General Mahmoud Al-Asmar, Heads of the Orders of Physicians in Tripoli and Beirut, Heads of Nurses’ Syndicate, General Secretary of the Red Cross, Dr. Mohammad Haidar and Dr. Mohammad Zalzali from the Ministry of Health, President of the Republic’s Advisor for Health Affairs Walid Khoury, and PM Advisors Khodor Taleb, Petra Khoury and Hussein Kaafarani.

Then the Secretary-General of the Red Cross Georges Kettaneh, presented the draft health emergency plan developed by the Technical Committee to combat coronavirus, under the auspices of the Ministries of Health and Interior.

Minister Hamad Hassan also briefed the attendees about the state of public hospitals, occupancy capacity, and recent developments with regard to public hospitals’ increased capacity with additional beds allocated for corona patients. In fact, ICU beds in public hospitals have increased from 142 beds in March 2020 to 379 beds in just eight months. Hassan warned private hospitals against still charging high bills on corona patients.

For his part, Head of the Parliamentary Health Committee Dr. Assem Araji, stated the difficulties faced by Covid-19 patients to secure beds in private hospitals, in addition to the high bill they have to pay.

Mutated COVID-19 strains’ Plan

The meeting took stock at the plan aimed at identifying mutated COVID-19 strains. PM Hassan Diab stressed the need for a plan being elaborated as soon as possible to follow up on the strains and generate information on how to prevent and treat it. Dr. Mohammad Haidar indicated that, according to statistics, around 60 to 70 percent of Covid-19 patients in Lebanon are infected with the new strain. For her part, WHO representative in Lebanon pledged to provide full support for the detection of the UK strain and other strains.

Post-lockdown plan

The interlocutors deliberated on the post-lockdown plan, with Premier Diab indicating that nothing prevents the extension of the lockdown in case there is a further surge in infections, while stressing the need to strike a balance between health and economy. He further highlighted the need to organize workshops to elaborate a draft plan which has to be discussed and finalized before February 8, in order to reopen the country gradually, in line with the needs of industrial, service, tourism, schools, universities and other sectors. For his part, Minister Hamad Hassan stressed the need for coordination in parallel with the gradual reopening and vaccination to reach the desired results.